Plato’s Teenage Years and DialoguesJune 27, 2021
Plato BC. Since he was born in 427, it means that the year of his birth coincides with the Peloponnesian Wars, which lasted for almost thirty years (431-404 BC) between Athens and Isparta.
Considering the social level of the family to which Plato belongs, the education and training he received, the most natural profession for him should be politics. However, he was not enthusiastic about political life. The reason for this is that his youth years were spent in war and he did not like the democracy method. At that time, Athens was ruled by a People’s Assembly, which was easily turned into a toy by master demagogues. Plato has always opposed such a government. He expressed in his works that the famous statesmen of Athens gave importance to external ostentatiousness and pomp, and that they completely forgot the moral values of the people. Athens was defeated at the end of the Peloponnesian wars, and an aristocratic government under the protection of Isparta took over. It is very natural that Plato helped the aristocratic power, whose rulers included his close relatives. However, Plato concluded that this administration was not different from democratic administration due to its unjust and oppressive policy. Therefore, he returned to his private life all over again. As a matter of fact, this administration was overthrown after a short time. It was replaced by a moderate democratic method. Plato also wanted to be involved in political activities in this new period, but this time he had to get involved in Socrates’ execution.
It was impossible for Plato to cooperate with a government that executed his teacher Socrates. After this event, Plato completely abandoned his enthusiasm for political activity. Natural political life continued to be his area of interest. However, this interest was limited only to the theoretical field. Although Plato determined an ideal state plan, he never believed that this ideal state could be implemented in his own country. On the other hand, he did not find it right to continue the fight against the city where he was born and raised.
On the one hand, Plato could not find a suitable environment to enter politics, on the other hand, he did not want to be a party to a fight in this field, so he preferred a life away from active politics in Athens. On the other hand, his close friendship with Dion in Syracuse enabled him to play an effective political role there. However, Plato was not successful in his political attempts in Syracuse. The king arrested him for acting like a dangerous innovator and expelled him from his country. In the city of Aigina, which he stopped on the way back to Athens, he was taken prisoner and sold as a slave because Aigina and Athens were at war. By good coincidence, a philosopher from Cyrene bought him and had him return to Athens. Later, Plato wanted to give back the money he paid to the philosopher of Cyrene when he bought him, but he did not get this money back. Plato also founded his famous “Academy” with this unrecoverable money.
Later, Plato made two more trips to Syracus in the hope of being able to participate in political activities, but these two trips were not enough to realize his hope and he had to leave Syracus again. Finally, one day, when his friend Dion became the sole ruler of Syracuse, Plato hoped that his friend would at least realize his ideas, but his friend was killed by an academy student. Perhaps, under the influence of this pain, Plato wrote an article in the form of a statement. This letter, which is the seventh of Plato’s “Letters”, was written for those who took power by killing Dion. In this letter, Plato advises the new rulers of Syracuse to abandon the political methods followed in Syracuse until now. Executions and torture of the people they beat should be stopped, and an administration should be established where laws that protect the judge and the prisoner equally are valid. Laws that protect everyone’s interests can give people confidence and provide continuity. These ideas form the basis of Plato’s last work, “Nomoi” (The Laws).
After Plato returned from these trips and decided not to get involved in politics again, he devoted himself entirely to education and writing.
He wrote constantly while teaching at the Platon Academy. Only a few of the works of the philosophers before him have reached us. However, we are very happy with the works of Plato. Because almost all of them have reached us. However, fakes were also mixed among Plato’s works. Even in the Antiquity, it has been understood that Plato’s works include fakes. For this reason, the question of which works are real and which are fake has emerged among the works that have come to us. There is also a problem in chronological ordering of the works. With the help of some criteria used, today almost a consensus has been reached on these two problems. For example, the mention of Aristotle, a student of Plato, about this work is considered solid proof. There is no doubt about the authenticity of such a work. Aristotle’s recognition of the date the work was written.